Visitors to Merrymeeting Gleaners Sharing table on Wednesday were plentiful but requested anonymity. Between 10 and 30 families or individuals stop by for fresh vegetables every week. Mikayla Patel / The Forecaster

Merrymeeting Gleaners are sharing the bounty from summer harvests at a sharing table set up at Topsham Public Library, where free, pre-bagged produce is available from local farms every week.

The program is a service of MidCoast Hunger Prevention Program and has been hosting year-round sharing tables since 2017. The food from local farms is available in Topsham for anyone who needs it from 12:30-2:30 p.m. Wednesdays.

Sharing Tables are also set up in Arrowsic, Bath, Bowdoin, Harpswell and Topsham. There is no income or residency requirement and they are completely anonymous.

“People can take food anonymously and the idea is to make it stigma-free with no barrier to entry,” said Julia Nelson of Merrymeeting Gleaners.

The group has collected anonymous feedback from attendees of the sharing table to gauge its impact and one comment Nelson often hears is that the sharing tables are helpful in the summer when children don’t have access to school lunch.

“It is a huge help to our family and we are eating more fresh fruits and veggies. Thanks to all the


volunteers, too,” one person wrote.

Another said, “This is a beautiful thing! Thank you so much. It helps out a lot and is infinitely appreciated.”

Nelson said the ability to meet the needs of local residents varies from week to week.

“Some weeks it’s not enough, other weeks it’s too much,” Nelson said. “It helps when we get a sense of what’s most popular.” She added that “all the produce is taken every week.”

The number of attendees typically ranges from 10 to 30 families or guests weekly, Nelson said.

She remarked on the increased importance of programs like the Sharing Table, as people spend significantly more on goods and services.  The average American family is spending $460 more a month on household spending compared to three years ago, according to an Aug. 3 article in The Street.


“We hear from librarians that a lot of people wait and come back every week,” Nelson said.

According to Good Shepherd Food Bank of Maine, Sagadahoc County was predicted rise to 4,090 food insecure residents by 2021, the most recent year statistics were available. The number represents 11.5% of the county’s population. Among children, the number was projected to be even higher, at 17.8 percent, a 13% increase from 2019.

Maine ranks first in New England in childhood food insecurity, and its percentage of food insecure residents continue to be higher currently than the pre-pandemic rate, based on the most recent data.

With the summer season coming to a close, Merrymeeting Gleaners is harvesting produce to sustain its tables through the winter and hopefully continue to meet the demand. Over the winter, the Sharing Table in Topsham will be held inside the library.

“It’s something that we want to be utilized by lots of people in the public. If you could use a little more money to spend on something else, that’s what the sharing table is for,” Nelson said.

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